High-speed chase and subsequent arrests lead to Phoenix drop house

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on March 16, 2010 at 6:57 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 17 at 6:36 AM

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PHOENIX -- Nearly 60 undocumented immigrants, including almost a dozen children, were discovered at a drop house in West Phoenix Tuesday afternoon after a high-speed chase earlier in the day.

Several people were taken into custody after that pursuit ended in a West Phoenix neighborhood early Tuesday morning.

It all started shortly before 6 a.m. on westbound Interstate 10. According to the Department of Public Safety, an officer tried to stop a pickup truck that was apparently following another vehicle too closely. The officer also spotted some plywood in the back of the truck that appeared suspicious.

The pickup driver did originally stop, but took off again as a DPS officer approached.

The chase went on for about 30 minutes or so, moving from westbound I-10 to northbound Loop 101 and then throughout the West Valley. Speeds reached between 80 and 90 mph.

Once the truck, which was caught by photo radar on the freeway at least twice, was on surface streets, ground units backed off. An air unit and 3TV's news helicopter, however, kept an eye on the situation from above.

The truck eventually stopped in a neighborhood of 104th Lane and Pioneer, which is in the area of 107th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road in West Phoenix.

The driver and several passengers got out of the vehicle.

When officers removed the plywood, they discovered several people hiding underneath. Aerial video showed several people, all believed to be undocumented immigrants, sitting on the sidewalk. Those people appeared to be cooperating with the officers on the scene.

A total of 13 people, including the driver, were taken into custody. Some of those people talked to 3TV's Javier Soto, saying they arrived in the U.S. just this morning. Soto tried to talk with the driver, but he was not answering any questions.

The undocumented immigrants were turned over to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). The driver was arrested.

According to DPS spokesman Bart Graves, investigators were led to the drop house after talking to the undocumented immigrants who were in the truck. At the house, authorities found 58 undocumented immigrants and two smugglers.

Most of those immigrants, including 11 children between the ages of 10 and 17, are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Each person paid some $6,000 to be smuggled into the U.S.

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